Dear Amy,

Hello. Thank you so much for your quick response to my e-mail. I truly appreciate the assistance you and NPBS have given me over the years. I would like to start you off with a little info in hopes it will help you understand what I now face today.

In 2008-2009 I was incarcerated in the mental health ward of a prison. I had just made my third attempt to end my life. While stuck in a safety cell/rubber room I had time to reflect and look within myself. Through this suffering I found meditation. I then started meditating daily and researching the path of enlightenment. I started to read Buddhist literature and attend Buddhist classes. I’d say I hit Buddhism 100 miles per hour. It was like I found myself. I found the perfect connection to being. I started to experience the blessings of each breath and I realized who I was. Through all this, I found poetry and I started to write daily. Before all this, I was sick, lonely, and lost. I was heart-broken and depressed. Buddhism was an answer to my prayers. All my advisors and teachers were amazed at how quickly I came to terms with enlightenment. Some people couldn’t answer the questions I had and didn’t understand the things I felt and experienced. It was a shock to me to realize how far away I was in such a short time. Finally I understood. Finally I was happy. So in January 2010, I paroled.

I went to a homeless shelter because I didn’t have any family or friends to lean on. I tried going to a few temples in my area and I felt so out of place. I didn’t belong in a group who practiced this religion since birth, where I was practicing the essence of spirituality. Of being free, of being the real me—truly a big difference between the two. I wasn’t accepted, I wasn’t welcomed and once again, I was lost. Still, I meditated and practiced the art of compassion and lovingkindness. I did stop studying. I wasn’t a good student. Even though I showed acts of kindness and acted with honesty and purity in my dealings, I was losing touch with the path. I won’t lie; being homeless and jobless wasn’t a big help either. I started to lose focus and got frustrated with my situation. My patience I developed after sitting in prison for over 15 years was disappearing quickly in a matter of months. I then was once again doing things I had no business doing. I may not have been doing crime, but I was back socializing with criminals.

I turned to old friends (gang members) for a place to stay. I was back to hanging out with people I know were doing wrong. A few months passed and I ended up in a car wreck. I was with a guy who had drugs on him and decided to run from the police when they attempted to pull us over. I ended up back in jail with a broken leg. Facing life in prison (3-strikes law). I entered jail broken in more than one way. My spirit was broken, I was once again lost and didn’t know what to do. My family and friends turned their backs on me. I couldn’t find myself and I totally lost touch with the breath. I felt like life wasn’t worth living and fell back into a deep state of depression. I’ve been incarcerated for about four months.

Today, I feel better about myself. I still suffer. I’m still a little angry. I meditate often, but I feel like I have in my past. I feel something is still missing. I have realized that as hard as I fell into Buddhism is just as hard as I fell out of it. Some days it’s very frustrating. I feel like a new student chasing something I know is there, but I just can’t grasp. I also realized that as much as I thought I knew about enlightenment, I actually didn’t know anything. I took my journey for granted. All the beauty I’ve seen and experienced on my journey, I’d assume I didn’t understand. Now I’m starting over, back to the roots, the essence of the path. I’m now trying to connect with as many advisors and teachers I can find to help guide me on my journey correctly so I don’t fall. I’m seeking spiritual pen pals of all levels for advice. I’m back to reading any books I can get my hands on about Buddhism and if possible I’m trying to take courses on Buddhism. Basically, I’m giving a full effort. 100% to myself and the path. Once again thank you for your correspondence. I look forward to hearing from you or any of the other volunteers. If you can point me in the right direction with more resources, I’d truly appreciate the assistance. If you also have any advice or thoughts about my situation, I welcome your suggestion and comments. May you be well and blessed and may you have a beautiful day. Thank you

M.S.